If you want a book to take you to a different world, full of exotic animals and strange mysteries and secrets, this is the book for you. The story follows Idie, from the time when she sets off to a new home on a Caribbean island at twelve years old, to the end of the First World War, when she is seventeen. Idie has never known her mother or father. As a baby, she was taken to live with her relatives in Devon and brought up alongside her cousins Myles and Benedict. A strong and feisty character, brought up to believe in herself, Idie has to learn to cope on her own when she is sent away to Hummingbird Island to be mistress of a grand house. Here she finds many mysteries to unravel, and she has to be resilient and determined as she keeps looking for the truth.
The novel is packed with wonderfully imagined characters, as well as a menagerie of animals with real personalities, who are allowed to live in the house. It is beautifully written, with a rich vocabulary to match the colour and vibrance of the Caribbean island. It also tells the story of the British West Indies Regiment, who fought in World War I alongside British troops, and yet were treated with discrimination. It’s a classic book for older readers, with adventure, humour, poignancy and romance. The language is challenging for younger readers, but the themes aren’t too adult for them to access. The story contains lots of themes: the loss of childhood innocence, heroism, betrayal, the effects of war on soldiers and the people left behind, and the history of the sugar cane plantations in the Caribbean. It’s a rich, imaginative book with lots to enjoy and lots to discuss with fellow readers.